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Yoot Noree, a Traditional Korean Game Played on Holidays

Sol Nal, the Korean New Year is coming next week.  This game will be played in many places.  The first time I played it, I was in Seosan, south of Seoul and was invited to a party. The next time, I was in Seoul, and Malcom Parsley, KCU’s resident missionary had a New Year’s gathering at his house, and I was invited, The Koreans brought this game, and we played.  One of my students at KCU used to like to play it with me when I was in a place called the International Zone where they came to speak English.  My son in law said he played it all the time he was growing up.  He said his parents dressed him in the traditional Korean clothes, a boy’s hanbok, and they visited his grandparents, and this is a game they played at his grandparent’s house. I am not sure how long it has been around, but for a long time.  I was confused every time I played because Koreans are not very good about explaining things step by step, but my son in law did a good job of explaining it to me today, so I am going to explain it to you.

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Place your game board on a blanket or rug in the floor.

To begin with, you don’t even have to have a game board. You can make your own.  I have seen them just get a piece of notebook paper and draw the lines on it to play, and then play. I have also seen them use a white board and draw the game on a white board and use magnets for their game pieces.  I have seen them get a big flat piece of Styrofoam, attach a piece of paper to the top with the game board drawn on it and use pins as their game pieces.  In one of the games we have, it has game pieces that are little round pieces of flat plastic, but I have also seen them use coins as game pieces.

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Playing the game, you must throw the sticks up in the air to know where to move your game pieces.

The only part that I haven’t seen them make is the wooden pieces that they throw in the air and use like dice.  However, you could get sticks and paint things on the sticks and use them if you were really wanting to make a copy of this game.

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If you look along the edge, you can see a succession of Korean words written at each place someone could land.  They are: doh, ghe, gol, yoot, and moh.

The Rules:

  1. Object of the game:  to get all the way around the board to the place just beforYou play in teams.  Each team has four game pieces, horses.  If you are playing with just two people, each person is a different team, and each person gets four game pieces.  (My son in law was calling the game pieces “horses.)
  2. If you look along the side of the game board, you will see there are several Korean words.  These words are: doh – pig, ghe -dove, gol -sheep, yoot -cow, moh -horse. This is the order of the whole board.  After you go through one succession of these, then they begin again, and then again.  When you throw the pieces of wood up in the air, they will tell you which one of these is where your game piece (your horse) moves to.
  3. If you throw the sticks and someone from another team is already on the spot, you send them back to doh and get to throw the sticks again.
  4. As you go around the board, you go on the edges unless you land on the corner at moh, and then you may go kitty corner across the board, a short cut.
  5. If one of your team’s game pieces is already on the spot when you land there, no one has to go back to the beginning. You can put two game pieces from the same team on one place.  The two game pieces (horses) may travel and move together the rest of the game if you want.  If one moves, the other goes with it.
  6. When they play, they put the paper on a blanket or a rug in the floor and everyone sits around the blanket to play. If someone throws the sticks and one of the sticks goes of the blanket, their turn is over.
  7. Each person gets a chance at throwing the sticks up and watching them come down in order.

The meaning of the sticks:

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Go to doh.

After you throw the sticks up in the air on your turn, if three sticks are up and show the picture, then your horse goes to doh.

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Go to ghe.

If you throw the sticks and two are down not showing a picture and two are up showing a picture, then you go to ghe.

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You would go to ghe.

After throwing, if three are down and one is up showing the picture, then you go to gol.

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If all four are down, then you go to yoot. (unless you are plying with the X’s)

If you throw and all four sticks are facing down where you can’t see a picture, then you go to yoot.

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You go to moh.

When you throw and all four sticks are facing up, and you can see the pictures on all of them, then you go to moh.

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This one takes you back to doh,

If you throw the sticks up and they come down with the one facing down that has a mark on the bottom on the down side, then you have to go back to doh. Some sets of sticks don’t have an X on the bottom, but if you are playing with the X, you have to go back to doh.

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a group playing yoot noree in hanboks, the traditional Korean clothing.
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A traditional Korean hat and a pipe is the picture in the middle of the sticks.  My son in law said he thinks the pictures on either end are Chinese characters, but not Chinese characters he knows.
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The hat and pipe in the middle of the sticks
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This is on either end of the sticks, but my son in law doesn’t know what it means, and neither do I.
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If you don’t read Korean letters, this looks like a Chinese character, but it is actually hangul (the Korean letters) for yoot.
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A drawing of Korean men in their traditional clothing playing yoot noree.

This game is only sold in Korea, but if you don’t live in Korea and want to play, it wouldn’t be hard to make a game and play too.

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